Phenols in Peaches, Plums Eradicate Breast Cancer Cells in Lab

Kathleen Blanchard's picture

Scientists at Texas AgriLife Research have discovered that phenols in peaches and plums were able to eradicate breast cancer cells in lab studies with no adverse effect on normal cells. The researchers say the antioxidants found in peaches and plums provide an attractive option for breast cancer treatment compared to typical chemotherapy that also kills normal cells

The study looked at the effect of two specific phenols in peaches and plums that the scientists say rival blueberries for their antioxidant properties. Dr. Luis Cisneros-Zevallos originally studied antioxidants and phytonutrients in plums, finding their potent health properties. "The following step was to choose some of these high antioxidant commercial varieties and study their anticancer properties," Cisneros-Zevallos said. "And we chose breast cancer as the target because it's one of the cancers with highest incidence among women. So it is of big concern."


The scientists treated breast cancer cells with compounds from the Rich Lady" peach and the "Black Splendor" plum. Cisneros-Zevallos said, “These extracts killed the cancer cells but not the normal cells." Chlorogenic and neochlorogenic were found to be the two specific phenolic acid components in the peaches and plums that killed breast cancer cells and are present in stone fruits. The plum and peach type chosen for the study are especially high in the two phenols but are found in all fruit.

"It was a differential effect which is what you're looking for because in current cancer treatment with chemotherapy, the substance kills all cells, so it is really tough on the body," said Dr. David Byrne, AgriLife Research plant breeder who studies stone fruit. "Here, there is a five-fold difference in the toxic intensity. You can put it at a level where it will kill the cancer cells - the very aggressive ones - and not the normal ones."

The researchers plan to continue their studies to find the effect of phenols from stone fruit such as peaches and plums on other types of cancer, in addition to breeding plums and peaches with potent antioxidant properties. The study found that phenolic compounds in peaches and plums eradicated even the most aggressive types of breast cancer cells without harming normal cells.

J. Agric. Food Chem., 2009, 57 (12), pp 5219–5226
DOI: 10.1021/jf900259m